- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 2, 2002

Idaho became the first state yesterday to repeal its term limits, as the Republican-controlled state legislature overrode the governor's veto.

Republican Gov. Dirk Kempthorne rejected the legislature's repeal plan on Thursday, but the House voted 50-20 yesterday to override that veto and the Senate followed suit, voting 26-8. Both were more than the two-thirds majority necessary to override the governor's veto.

"It's a sad day for Idaho voters," said Stacie Rumenap, executive director of U.S. Term Limits. "The legislature slapped Idaho voters in the face with today's repeal on term limits."

Eric O'Keefe, president of Americans for Limited Terms, said the action was "certainly not an isolated event" and is part of a "rumbling rebellion" among politicians in various states to dismiss term limits.

"From our perspective, it's part of an ongoing effort by politicians to get rid of the term limits voters impose on them," Mr. O'Keefe said.

Currently 18 states limit the terms of state lawmakers. Most of the term limits were enacted in the early 1990s. Nebraska is the most recent state to enact term limits in 2000, Miss Rumenap said.

Idaho passed term limits in 1994, with nearly 60 percent of voters approving the measure. The state's residents voted by 53 percent to retain the legislation in 1998.

Idaho limited school board and county commission service to six years in any 11-year period, and service in all other elected state, city and county offices to eight years in any 15-year period.

Mr. O'Keefe said he and other advocates of term limits are focusing on California, where the next "big battle" is brewing.

California has imposed term limits on its legislators in the state House since 1996 and in the state Senate since 1998, according to the Web site of U.S. Term Limits.

But a ballot initiative in the upcoming March 5 California primary would weaken the limits by allowing state lawmakers to petition for a four-year extension when they come to the end of their terms, Mr. O'Keefe said.

Miss Rumenap said the result will be "very telling" because other states look to California for guidance.

She also said the Oregon Supreme Court ruled early this year that term limits were unconstitutional.

Both Mr. O'Keefe and Mis Rumenap said the effort to do away with term limits comes from both parties.

"I think legislators, as they reach the end of their terms, want to retain power, and repealing term limits is a last-ditch effort," Miss Rumenap said.

She said on average about 70 percent of voters nationwide support term limits.

But Michael Franc, vice president of government relations at the Heritage Foundation, said that while many voters may still support term limits, it is not a top issue for them at the polls, as it was in the early 1990s.

"The intensity among voters for term limits has gone down consistently over the past eight years or so," Mr. Franc said.

Mr. Franc said Congress had a very low approval rating before the 1994 elections, making term limits a very popular issue among voters. But the public attitude toward politicians has changed since then, he said.

"I think in the last six or seven years the public view of legislators at the federal and state level has improved and that has taken a lot of the wind out of the sails of the term- limits movement," Mr. Franc said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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